Malta HIV conference sets example for Europe unions

The ITF has applauded the youth department of the General Workers Union (GWU) in Malta for holding its first conference on HIV-positive and transgender workers.

More than 70 people, including union leaders, shop stewards and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), took part in HIV+ people and transgender people as our colleagues. The ministers of labour, European affairs and equality also attended.

During two panel discussions – on challenging stigma and discrimination in workplaces; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights at work – participants stressed the importance of mainstreaming LGBT people throughout workplaces. They also agreed that workplace HIV testing should always be voluntary, in response to reports of migrant workers being tested for HIV without proper counselling and informed consent.

ITF HIV/AIDS programme co-ordinator Dr Asif Altaf shared the ITF's global HIV and wellbeing programme, and Jebsen Gomido, chair of the HIV positive network of Philippines seafarers took part via video link.

The ITF and the GWU agreed to work together to develop a workplace wellbeing programme, including HIV prevention for young union members.

Kendrick Bondin, GWU youth secretary, said, "There are still a lot of taboos around HIV/AIDS and transgender people in Malta. We all need to break the silence and talk more about it and educate our young workers so that they can have a healthy and happy life and do not face discrimination, even if they are HIV-positive.”

Dr Altaf congratulated the GWU on its successful conference. He added that the ITF would like to see more of its European unions organising similar events on HIV, gender and sexuality issues, particularly as the rate of HIV infection – and other sexually transmitted diseases – was increasing in some countries in Europe. He expressed concern that there was very little HIV awareness workplace education for young workers.

Find out more about ITF unions’ work on HIV and AIDS. 

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